Focal Passage: Selected Proverbs
We are social creatures. We need other people and the truth of the matter is we want relationships. Few people are able to live by themselves. The developing of friends is an important and needful task. My first pastorate after seminary was in northern Ohio in what was called then a pioneer state for Southern Baptist work. I knew no one there and those I did know were in the church I served. The churches were scattered and were miles apart. Occasional associational meetings offered some contacts, but these were limited. I made a determination to develop friendships and I was fortunate in my effort. The first truth of our lesson is that we must make friends, or in the lesson title, forge friendships.
If you would have friends you must be a friend, and yes, you must select your friends. “Don’t make friends with an angry man and don’t be a companion of a hot tempered man or you will learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare” (Proverbs 22:24-25). The call to selective choosing of friends may sound narrow for a Christian. Should we not be a friend to everyone? Of course we should, but there is a difference in being a friend and being friendly. The friends we need are those we trust with our lives. A pastor said to a group of young pastors once that if a man had four or five true friends he was a wealthy man. He was right.
Proverbs warns that friendships can be dangerous, mostly because friends tend to have influence over us and we may be drawn into their activity. Jesus was a friend to sinners and he is still a friend to sinners, but was not influenced by their ways. A Christian can, and must be a friend to everyone, but not become entangled in their lifestyle. This influence is warned against in Proverbs 13:20, “Those who walk with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs’ theme of acting wisely is repeated in these verses. Select your friends wisely but be a friend to everyone.
We may call what follows in the lesson elements of friendship. In these verses, having patience surely is a factor in any friendship (Proverbs 14:29, 16:32). The writer extols the value of patience as being better than power, and controlling one’s temper better that capturing a city. Additionally, patience results in overlooking an offense. Cultivating patience will lead to overlooking shortcomings in another. No one is perfect and, try as you may, you will not find a perfect friend. One could hope practicing patience might result in your friend overlooking your own failures.
Two other factors for friendship are loyalty and faithfulness (Proverbs 3:3). Being loyal may be seen as not betraying a friendship. Standing by a friend in their time of need would constitute both loyalty and faithfulness. Fair weather friends are not friends at all for their loyalty waivers when you really need them. The writer admonishes us to guard both loyalty and faithfulness, “tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”
One other factor, not mentioned but surely implied, is keeping a confidence. You will be faithful and loyal only as much as you keep matters they have shared with you as a sacred trust. Counselors are taught not to share what a client tells them unless what they share will endanger them or others. A good friend keeps a secret.
Surely the basis of friendship is love. Such a friend is “closer than a brother.” I have been blessed with such friends all my life, and I hope I have been one.
— Hay, a former pastor and retiree from the Tennessee Baptist Convention, lives in Dyersburg.